Eight years of Guantánamo: another unhappy birthday

Incredibly, it’s now eight years since the first shackled and orange-jump-suited prisoners were taken to the notorious prison camp at Guantánamo.

Eight years. This is a long time if you’ve been found guilty of a crime and sent to prison to serve a sentence. How much longer does it feel if you’ve been held all that time without charge or trial?

I was working at Amnesty back in 2002 (yes, even then!) and I remember the real sense of shock around the office when those first images appeared on our television screens. The reaction was – this is bizarre. It can’t be happening. Surely the Americans are going to come to their senses over this.

Well, eight years on sense hasn’t exactly prevailed. Yes, we were promised big changes when Obama was elected president, including, of course, Guantánamo. closure within a year. Well it’s now nearly a year since Obama made that promise (22 January to be exact) and there are still 198 prisoners imprisoned without charge or trial at Guantánamo.

Why on earth hasn’t this been dealt with by now? Amnesty UK boss Kate Allen discusses some of the blockages over ending this travesty of justice in a new Comment is Free piece (please add your own comments to the comments thread). For my part, I marked this miserable “birthday” by taking part in the – freezing cold – hand-in of a letter to Gordon Brown at Downing Street from the 12-year-old daughter (Johina) of the UK resident Shaker Aamer who is still held at Guantánamo. See some quick Twitpics here.

The key thing is that Guantánamo most certainly ain’t over yet. Please support Amnesty’s call on Gordon Brown to make good use of the election lead-in period by pressing harder for the release of Shaker, as well as another man with links to the UK, Ahmed Belbacha.

Guantánamo was a stain on George W Bush’s presidency. Is it becoming one on Barack Obama’s?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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